Murrays cheese is the most famous cheese store in NYC. It has been around since 1940. It even has caves below the store to keep certain cheeses! Cheese classes? Stinky cheese? Cream cheese? Anything cheese? Check!
One day we made a hotel picnic lunch with goodies from Zabars, which is a grocery store on the Upper West Side. It’s been in existence for over 70 years! Lunch included caper berries, cheese, crackers, kinishes, white beans, broccoli rabe, Jewish sweet treat (don’t recall the name) and citrus fruit. Interesting side note: I may now understand the idea of crappy tasting produce in very urban areas. I had several pieces of citrus fruit while in New York, and, ahem, citrus is in season. But it was awful!
One thing I REALLY wanted to do while in the City was visit the burrough of Queens, and more specifically, take “International Express” aka the elevated #7 train. We took the train near the end of the line to Flushing, which is known as the “new” Chinatown of NYC. Not far from the train, we wandered into a Chinese supermarket. At times I was chuckling, at other times I was cringing
So the picture of the LIVE turtles really disturbed me. Sure I know that meat comes from beings that were once alive. And I eat meat. And I’ve seen animals be killed to eat. And yes, I know people all over the world eat squirrels, cats, dogs, tigers, whales , bugs, baby cows and everything else under the sun. But seeing these turtles struck a very sad cord within me. In fact, I didn’t take a picture of the cooler next to it which had turtles individually bagged in mesh sacks atop a block of ice. At first I thought the turtles were dead, but then I lightly nudged one and it moved. It was on it’s back, nearly frozen solid. And turtles are cold-blooded. Having had turtles as pets growing up and having screeched the car to a halt to help a turtle cross the road more times that I have fingers on my hand, I just couldn’t really take this sight, or the thought of eating anything at the market’s restaurant (my plan). Good thing there was vegetarian food to be had not far away…
Thanks to Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation’s TV show, I found about this very interesting Hindu Temple about a mile from the Chinese market. The Temple operates a cafeteria in the basement and is open daily. This seemed to good to be true…
I always love when restaurants have set lunches. And the temple cafeteria did. I didn’t know anything the lunch came with; the only part of the description I understood was “mini”, which it was not.I also wanted to order a dosa. But, like the other menu, it was mind-boggling. Where was the glossary like Lupas?? I had no idea where to start, so I asked the man taking my order what his favorite dosa was? “……” “Yes I will take that!” Before it came to the table I was like “Crap, Joy! It’s gonna be crazy hot since it’s his favorite and most Indians have a higher “heat” tolerance when it comes to spice and food. Now, I am no weeny when it comes to spicey food, but have you ever noticed there are two scales in America? There is “American hot” and there is “Indian” or “Thai hot”? Well, as luck would have it, the dosa and accompanying dipping sauces were perfectly spiced and it was no problem. Just in case, I did order a mango lassi which was fantastic. All in all it was not the best Indian food I had ever had, but the atmosphere (hello churcheque Hindu supper), other diners and “can you guess what food I am?” made it totally worth it.
One of the most anticipated restaurants for me was Prune. The chef-owner of Prune,
Gabrielle Hamilton, came out with her memoirs last year: Blood, Bones and Butter
. Let me put it bluntly–she is a very interesting person…Nonetheless, I was excited to eat at her place. I ordered a fantastic salad with greens and sauteed radicchio (a current favorite of mine) and goat cheese. What I was really pumped about, however, was the beloved marrow bones she wrote about and what I dreamed about eating. Now, I will be totally honest–I had only tried marrow one time before this–and it was just a small bite–but it was heavenly rich. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about Prune’s marrow. It tasted like a lot of butter and not much else. Disappointment. But I did end the meal with a nice Negroni, which Gabrielle and her adopted Italian family were always sipping on in the book. I was quite surprised that I liked it–I’m usually not one for cocktails. Watch out Austin mixoligists–give me your best Negroni!
For Sunday brunch, we went to Balthazar’s
. The interior is absolutely gorgeous–that is the thing about New York–you can gawk at the beautiful, historic nature of just about any building.
I ordered the Salad Nicoise and the largest cappuccino I had ever seen (and I payed for it later on with a stuffy nose, thanks to all the milk, but it was worth it). Our server was a bit of an asshole–he was French–I wondered if he was playing a part? Or just falling into a stereotype? As funny as this seems, I was disappointed that the salad was not presented like traditional nicoise salads in which all the ingredients are carefully placed separately like an appetizer plate. This might have been the first time presentation bothered me–as it usually does not.
I would have liked to spend more time in Brooklyn, as there is SO MUCH happening food-wise there, but I’ll be back. These are some of the most memorial sights and eats from my time there–
My cousin and his girlfriend are members of the Park Slope Food Co-op which is a ” true co-op”–all members are mandated to work there 4 hours per month. In fact, you can’t even shop there if you were not a member. It was even more strict that Costco–we had to make a special trip upstairs to the membership office so I could get a badge to be in the store. Crazy! Anyway, it looks like Park Slopers love their Co-op and they have something special going on. When I went it was packed, or at least I thought it was. However, I was informed that it wasn’t that packed. Geeze, I thought to myself–I can hardly get around anyone and I don’t even have a cart–I’m kind of afraid to see it really packed. Ahhhh….New York….
The weather in New York was particularly mild for February. Except for the day I went on a walking tour with my cousin in Brooklyn. With the windchill near the Brooklyn waterfront, it could not have been more than 20 degrees. BRRRR!!! We ducked into Jacques Torres Chocolate store where I warmed up with an Earl Grey tea and delightful chocolate chip cookie.
After eating such rich, delicious food, I was ready for something a tad more simple, and how do you say it? Homemade! My cousin whipped up a quick meal of pasta with fresh parsley and Parmesan. We started off the evening with some wonderful, hip cheese from Vermont I had bought at Murrays, wonderful olives and pickles from the Brooklyn Food Coop and a nice glass of wine. Isn’t vacation nice?
Also while in Brooklyn, I made it over to the Ger-nis Culinary and Herb Center, which had been on my list of things to do. It’s housed in an old converted warehouse in Brooklyn on the same street as my cousin’s place–what luck! The culinary center was beautifully layed-out and got me even more excited for the new home of Sustainable Food Center. Talking with Nissa, the owner of the Center, it also hit me how hard it is to run a business. I’m hopeful, though that our non-profit mission will help us launch and successfully offer increased programming for all in Austin and beyond.
I saved the best (or almost best) for last–by the last day in New York I still had not sunk my teeth into a bagel NOR a Ruben sandwich. Luckily, my cousin recommend I check out La Bagel Delight, just down the street. To my delight, they not only had bagles but I could get a Ruben on a bagel and was told it was cheaper. It must be a sign!